Above: Jennifer Appleby plays Gwendolen Fairfax with Kory Weimer as Jack Worthing, Josh Carlton as Algernon Moncrieff and Nicole Trobaugh as Cecily Cardew in the Cottage Theatre production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” (Photos by Emily Bly)
By Randi Bjornstad
For those who haven’t made a habit of reading play scripts and imagining the staging — or just savoring the words and the stage instructions — consider giving it a try.
One that’s completely delightful is “The Importance of Being Earnest,” by Oscar Wilde, with quirky characters, beautiful language, gently refined humor and a world transplanted from another, seemingly far less fractious time.
But if you’d rather see it than read it, the Cottage Theatre offers that opportunity right now, as it continues its 35th season, with performances that run through June 25.
Written in 1895, “The Importance of Being Earnest” fits neatly into the category of Victorian farce, but it’s distinguished by coming from Wilde’s wild and vivid imagination and the storybook land of the English country home.
The plot revolves around a young gentleman named Jack Worthing, who has invented a fictitious brother named Ernest, whom he portrays as so uncontrolled and uncontrollable that he, reliable brother Jack, must frequently abscond to London to control him.
When in London, Worthing takes on the identity of brother Ernest Worthing while spending his time with a close friend and fellow schemer Algernon Moncrieff. During one of his visits, he meets Moncrieff’s cousin, Gwendolen Fairfax, and — of course — instantly falls in love.
The lovely Miss Fairfax falls for him in return, partly because “Ernest” is just the type of name and character she seeks in the man she wants to marry.
Unbeknownst to Jack Worthing, Moncrieff likes his idea of impersonation so much that he puts it to his own use, adopting the name Ernest for some wooing of his own, a young lovely who happens to be Jack Worthing’s ward.
The plot thickens when all four young people — the two pseudo-Ernests and the oblivious young women — end up, fortuitously for the plot, at Jack’s country estate on the same weekend.
The result, of course, is exactly the kind of misunderstandings and shenanigans common to time-honored plots of romantic comedies from all literary and theatrical eras.
Alan Beck directs the Cottage Theatre production, with costumes by Rhonda Turnquist and lighting by Amanda Ferguson.
The cast includes Jennifer Appleby, Josh Carlton, Steve Mandell, Elizabeth Peterson, James Scoggins, Karen Snyder, Nicole Trobaugh and Kory Weimer.
The Importance of Being Earnest
When: 8 p.m. June 15-17 and 22-24 and 2:30 p.m. June 18 and 25
Where: Cottage Theatre, 700 Village Drive in Cottage Grove
Tickets: $25 for adults, $15 for youths 6-18 years, available at the box office, 541-942-8001, or online at cottagetheatre.org/